Did Australia’s ban on guns lower violent crime rates and lower suicide rates?

Gun ownership up, gun violence down
Gun ownership up, gun violence down

Someone asked me about what I thought of Australia’s experience banning the use of handguns for self-defense against criminals, and so I thought I would link to an article from The Federalist, then explain what peer-reviewed studies say about the issue.

Let’s start with The Federalist.

It says:

The argument, as Vox’s headline puts it, is “Australia confiscated 650,000 guns. Murders and suicides plummeted.”

The piece, along with many gun control advocates, cites a Harvard University study whose conclusion begins with this line: “It does not appear that the Australian experience with gun buybacks is fully replicable in the United States.” Not a great start for Vox’s angle, but I digress.

The study doesn’t conclude that “murders and suicides plummeted” in Australia after the 1996 gun ban, as Vox claims in its headline. Instead, it focuses solely on firearm-related murders and suicides.

After the gun ban, violent crime rates were up:

Yes, as with the gun-happy United States, the murder rate is down in Australia. It’s dropped 31 percent from a rate of 1.6 per 100,000 people in 1994 to 1.1 per 100,000 in 2012.But it’s the only serious crime that saw a consistent decline post-ban.

In fact, according to the Australian government’s own statistics, a number of serious crimes peaked in the years after the ban. Manslaughter, sexual assault, kidnapping, armed robbery, and unarmed robbery all saw peaks in the years following the ban, and most remain near or above pre-ban rates. The effects of the 1996 ban on violent crime are, frankly, unimpressive at best.

It’s even less impressive when again compared to America’s decrease in violent crime over the same period. According to data from the U.S. Justice Department, violent crime fell nearly 72 percent between 1993 and 2011. Again, this happened as guns were being manufactured and purchased at an ever-increasing rate.

So although you have fewer firearm-related deaths when you disarm law-abiding civilians, violent crime increases, because there is now NO deterrence to criminals. Even a criminal with a knife can rob, rape and murder someone who is unarmed.

What about suicide rates?

Look:

The Australian gun ban’s effect on suicide in the country isn’t any better. While Vox repeats the Harvard study’s claim that firearm-related suicides are down 57 percent in the aftermath of the ban, Lifeline Australia reports that overall suicides are at a ten-year high. The Australian suicide prevention organization claims suicide is the leading cause of death for Australians 15 to 44 years old. So, while Australians kill themselves with firearms less often, it seems they don’t actually take their own lives any less often than before the ban.

So, overall suicides are not down, people simply found other ways to kill themselves. So the gun ban had no effect on the overall suicide rate. But it did raise the violent crime rate. Should we be surprised by this? Actually, this is consistent with peer-reviewed research.

Gun crime also skyrocketed after the 1996 gun ban. The Washington Free Beacon reports.

Excerpt:

Australia has seen a rise in gun crime over the past decade despite imposing an outright ban on many firearms in the late 1990s.

Charges for crimes involving firearms have increased dramatically across the island nation’s localities in the past decade according to an analysis of government statistics conducted by The New Daily. It found that gun crimes have spiked dramatically in the Australian states of Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia, and Tasmania. In Victoria, pistol-related offenses doubled over the last decade. In New South Wales, they tripled. The other states saw smaller but still significant increases.

Experts said that the country’s 1996 ban on most semi-automatic firearms has actually driven criminals to those guns. “The ban on semi-automatics created demand by criminals for other types of guns,” professor Philip Alpers of the University of Sydney told The New Daily. “The criminal’s gun of choice today is the semi-automatic pistol.”

[…]Regardless of the reasons for the jump in gun crime, the numbers reveal the true size of Australia’s illegal gun market. “Taken together, the data suggests that despite our tough anti-gun laws, thousands of weapons are either being stolen or entering the country illegally,” The New Daily said. “The fourfold rise in handgun-related charges in NSW in the past decade points to the existence of a big illegal market for concealable firearms that seems to have been underestimated in the past.”

If you take guns away from law-abiding people (which is what Australia did), then only criminals will have guns. And that means that the criminals will become bolder in the face of their disarmed victims.

The peer-reviewed research

Whenever I get into discussions about gun control, I always mention two academic books by John R. Lott and Joyce Lee Malcolm.

I think that peer-reviewed studies should be useful for assessing gun control vs gun rights policy. The book by economist John Lott, linked above,compares the crime rates of all U.S. states that have enacted concealed carry laws, and concludes that violent crime rates dropped after law-abiding citizens were allowed to carry legally-owned firearms. That’s the mirror image of Dr. Malcolm’s Harvard study, which shows that the 1997 UK gun ban caused violent crime rates to MORE THAN DOUBLE in the four years following the ban. But both studies affirm the same conclusion – more legal firearm ownership means less crime.

One of the common mistakes I see anti-gun advocates making is to use the metric of all “gun-related deaths”. First of all, this completely ignores the effects of hand gun ownership on violent crime, as we’ve seen. Take away the guns from law-abiding people and violent crime skyrockets. But using the “gun-related deaths” number is especially wrong, because it includes suicides committed with guns. This is the majority (about two thirds) of gun related deaths, even in a country like America that has a massive inner-city gun violence problem caused by the epidemic of single motherhood by choice. If you take out the gun-related SUICIDES, then the actual number of gun homicides has decreased as gun ownership has grown.

For a couple of useful graphs related to this point, check out this post over at the American Enterprise Institute.

18 thoughts on “Did Australia’s ban on guns lower violent crime rates and lower suicide rates?”

  1. Reblogged this on Smart Christian.net and commented:
    Did gun control really work? No! While fewer crimes were committed with guns, other crimes went up. Quite frankly, If I am murdered, I don’t care what tool was used to commit the murder. It is the murder that counts, not the tool used to commit the murder.

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    1. A common myth from the gun lobby is that inventing facts and using logical fallacies is a valid way to argue.
      We already know that states that permit assault weapons have higher firearms death rates than those that dont.
      We already know that assault weapons are not used for “defense” and are used primarily to cause mass terror in mass shootings – and teh rates have been increasing over the last five years.
      We already know that gin controls are DRAMATICALLY successful with no correlation with adverse social factors.

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      1. A consistent and predictable sophomoric ploy of the anti-civil rights gun grabber lobby is repetitive lying about both statistics and findings concerning gun control, and claiming that more gun restrictions/prohibitions results in less gun violence. To wit: “We already know that states that permit assault weapons have higher firearms death rates than those that don’t.”

        Aside from the fact an “assault weapon” does not exist other than as a term of Democrat demagoguery (similar to their insistence that illegal aliens must be falsely called “undocumented immigrants”), this is one of their more consistent lies. Let’s examine that claim, using the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports for 2014 – the latest year for which data for all states is available.

        Among the most permissive states for “assault weapons” are Idaho, Montana, Vermont, and New Hampshire. These are states which will allow you to openly carry a legally owned belt fed machine gun down Main Street (never mind a semiautomatic AR-15), without so much as a permit required. Add a handgun to each hip as well if you like. In the other corner, we have the regressive progressive Democrat utopias who ban or severely restrict “assault weapons” – as well as most other firearms as well, with gun laws that are in some cases more severe than Canada’s.

        So, the murder rates for those states per capita in 2014 are as follows:
        No restrictions on “assault weapons”:
        ID – 1.9
        MT – 3.5
        VT -1.6
        NH – 1.1

        Prohibitions/heavy restrictions on “assault weapons”
        IL – 5.9
        DE – 6.7
        DC – 24.2
        MD -9.0
        NJ – 4.1
        CA – 4.8

        It’s the regressive progressive Democrat utopias with their severe gun laws that are the slaughterhouses – not the states with gun laws more reflective of the Second Amendment words “shall not be infringed”. BTW, why is it so hard for alleged adults to understand those four words?

        And so, once again, the lies of the anti-civil rights gun grabber crowd are exposed. For those who think that’s just an off year, feel free to pick any year you wish for which data for all states is available.

        BTW, if you compare the free states with the Canadian provinces that border them on the north, if you go to Stats Canada, you will find they have very similar murder rates. Even though Canada has much more severe gun control laws.

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      2. You want to control gin now? Where will the nanny state stop.

        In all seriousness, you emotionally “know” these things but none of your assertions are backed by any data whatsoever. None of these facts are ‘invented’ they are government statistics. Don’t you lefties love the government? Your “assault weapons” are responsible for fewer annual deaths than knives, clubs OR EVEN PUNCHES/KICKS and the VAST majority of murders occur in left run cities that are out of control with drug and gang violence. So save it. Arguments for gun control never stand up to the facts.

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      3. We already know that only fully automatic rifles can be considered assault weapons, and next to no one owns them and we also already know that no “assault weapon” has ever been involved in any mass shooting that has ever occurred in U.S.and that the “assault weapons” already owned by private citizens are primarily used for sport or fun and not for harm and that states like California with the most restrictions on guns have the most firearm deaths. We already know that gun control laws are dramatically ineffective at reducing violent crime, even in Australia violent crime has risen since the gun ban and in London the murder rate is higher than New York’s. Please use actual facts for an argument so you don’t look stupid next time.

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      4. You seem to miss the point that violent crime increases with gun bans; Australia is given as just one example. Sure, gun violence decreases where there are no guns, but people creatively find other ways to commit crimes, so we see violence increases after a ban, because criminals know their victims will likely be unarmed; they feel less constrained. That is why gun free zones are targeted by criminals. Suggest you take a step back and consider the arguments of both sides, before you make your conclusions. Everybody claims statistical facts, but as the saying goes, “statistics don’t lie, but liars use statistics.”

        Liked by 1 person

      5. no sorry facts are facts. more restrictive gun laws or confiscation results in the increase of violent crimes. A study conducted on violent criminals when asked what their biggest fear was when conducting the murder, assault or rape. Their response was that their VICTIM was armed? Mentally deranged people and people that believe in killing innocent people will never go away. Taking firearms away is a rather childish naïve solution instead these mentally deranged people will go the route of the Boston bombers and kill and mame people on an even larger scale with bombs. Don’t be a sheep. Learn your facts and be a realist Dude!!!!

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  2. “Manslaughter, sexual assault, kidnapping, armed robbery, and unarmed robbery all saw peaks in the years following the ban”

    So, in other words, in every category where legal. private gun owners would have been able to protect themselves before the ban, they are now victims as a result of the ban?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Is the graphic at the top of the page Australian stats.? I think it is for America, which is somewhat misleading on a post related to Australia.

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  4. Just today I had a lady comment to me on a debate on gun control/ban and scoffed at the 2nd amendment saying to me “do you REALLY think your guns Are going to protect you against the US military?” And I told her if well armed citizens count protect themselves against the US army, terrorists groups such as ISIS should have shriveled and died years ago. The US government has been operating in the middle East since 1990 trying to stamp out whatever low budget terrorist group or rogue state was causing chaos. And still, the US has NOT succeeded.
    Oddly she never replied back……..🤔 lol🤣🤣🤣

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